Yes, you read that right.
Yes, we bought a bag of (corporate, processed, full-of-preservatives-and-crap) Fritos.
We could’ve (and probably should’ve) walked down to Daily Groceries or driven over to Earth Fare for some organic, all-natural Frito-type corn chips with five or fewer easily pronounceable ingredients. It’s always my preference to buy a healthier, more sustainable option.
But when you’re really hungry after a long day at school or work, and the chili’s completely ready in the pot, and then Micah says, “We need chips! How about Fritos? I’ll go get some.”–well, it’s kinda hard to stick to your principles.
And since we do stick to our principles most of the time….well, I wasn’t going to argue.
Plus, I’ll admit: I like Fritos. Always have. And I love, love, love Frito pies.
You might’ve had Frito pies before, but if you haven’t, let me tell you a little bit about them.
The Frito pies of my childhood were comprised of three vital components:
- Canned chili. Dave and I were the working-class kids of teenage parents, so brand-name chili like Bush’s or Hormel happened sometimes, but other times, the cans looked a little more like this:
- And shredded cheese:
We ate a lot of Frito pies growing up, so you would think they were commonplace enough for me not to get that excited about them (or maybe even enough for me to get tired of them).
For whatever reason, Frito pies always sparked high spirits. If one of us asked what was for dinner and Mom or Dad responded, “Frito pies!”–they always said it with that exclamation point at the end, always enthusiastic, always eager–then Dave and I always felt the excitement, too. (I’m speaking for him here, of course, but I’m pretty sure I’m hitting the mark.)
Maybe Frito pies were exciting because we had some choices–how many chips, how much cheese, what the final crunch-to-chili ratio would be.
Maybe Frito pies were exciting because they were kind of real food, but still kind of junk food, too, and maybe when the chili ran out, we’d still get to snack on the leftover Fritos afterwards.
Or maybe Frito pies were exciting just because they tasted really damn good.
Whatever the reason–the autonomy, the forbidden-fruit-thrill, or the hearty-spicy-crunchy-melty deliciousness–Frito pies are one of my very favorite childhood memories.
They’re a tradition that carried over to my teen years, too, when we would go camping with my Dad and someone might stew a big dutch oven of homemade chili over the campfire (or just plunk an opened can of chili beans right down on the grates of the grill), and our chili and chips and cheese sometimes got fancified with a sprinkling of black olives or a spoonful of salsa or a dollop of sour cream.
My mom still makes Frito pies sometimes–the kind everyone’s pinning on Pinterest where you put out lots of little single-serve bags of Fritos next to a big pot of chili and and an assortment of fixins so your party guests can build their own Frito pies without dirtying any dishes because the chip baggie doubles as a sort of bowl.
Well, as of last Thursday, I still make Frito pies, too:
When you eat a Frito pie, you should top it with whatever chili you like best, whether it’s a can of No Beans Hormel or a pot of vegan chili with sweet corn and chunks of carrot or some very traditional chili that’s just chile con carne, stewed to sublime, spicy perfection.
Our chili wasn’t the best we’ve ever made, definitely wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty dang good, so I’ll share how we made it here.
What’s in it:
- 2/3 cup dry black beans (or you could use a can of already cooked)
- 1 cup dry pinto beans (or use 1-2 cans)
- 1 pound bulk pork sausage (ours was medium-heat breakfast sausage from Moonshine, but once we seasoned it, it didn’t taste like brunch anymore)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 pound fresh tomatoes, diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (or sub cayenne)
- 1 can Pabst Blue Ribbon (or beer of your choice)
- juice of 1/2 a lime
- salt and pepper to taste
- If your beans are dry, soak ’em and cook ’em. We used our pressure cooker to get them done in about 45 minutes, but you can simmer them all day on the stove or in a slow cooker–or just used canned beans because they’re easier. 🙂
- In a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat, brown the ground sausage.
- When the sausage is cooked through (or close to it), add the garlic, onion, and peppers, and saute until they’re translucent and tender.
- Mix in the tomatoes, tomato paste, cumin, and ground chipotle.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, including the beans. (You can add the liquid from the beans or not, depending on how thick and chunky you like your chili and how long you want it to take to reduce.)
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for at least 30-40 minutes, but as long as a few hours to let the flavors really play together nicely.
Now that you have that big, spicy, hearty pot of chili, go ahead and make yourself a Frito pie. A basic three-ingredient stove-top pie, a rustic campfire pie, a cute little Pinterest pie….or make up your own. Use Fritos, or splurge on the organic all-natural five-ingredient corn chips. It’s really up to you.
And in the end, that’s probably the best thing about a Frito pie. 🙂